River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay

The high points of the ancient Empire of the Kitai are long behind it. The loss of the Long Wall and the 14 prefectures to the barbarians in the north are a stain on the honour of t935760_458020097605754_1700770602_nhe Empire.

The Empire is riven by conflict. At the Emperors court the various factions battle for power and influence over the Emperor, exile and even death are a common threats hanging over court officials.

In the countryside, high taxes and the actions of the agents of the Flowers and Rocks Network are causing anger amongst the peasants and banditry is on the rise.

In the North the army suffers defeat and dishonour in the battle to regain the Long Wall. This isn’t really surprising as military prowess or competence is ridiculed and mistrusted at court.

This lack of militarism is brought into sharp focus when a new and sinister threat bursts forth from the north and threatens the very existence of the Empire.

With the Empire buckling under the onslaught destiny will bring a young man to the fore.

Born to a minor civil service official, far from the centre of power, Daiyan is destined for a life of boredom obscurity, that is until a deadly encounter with bandits while on a mission for a local official.

Discovering he has a talent for combat, his charisma and confidence makes him a leader of men and his unwavering belief in his destiny to reclaim the Fourteen Prefectures for the Empire soon brings him to the attention of court.

Can he overcome the mistrust of the court and save the empire from the dark horde bearing down on it?

River of Stars is Guy Gavriel Kay’s reimagined portrait of of the glory and decadence of the Song dynasty. The author is better known (certainly by me) as a writer of some pretty epic fantasy books and I was a little apprehensive to read this because its always a risk when one of your favourite authors moves onto a new genre.

Was I disappointed? Not even close, this is a breathtaking book!

At 632 pages this a monster of a historical fiction book but this allows the story to grow and mature at a slower pace and gives the characters time to breath and really develop.

The depth to the story is amazing, because the author can devote time and pages to develop each character and their back story you really get an understanding of their motives and feelings which I don’t think I’ve ever experienced in any other book to that degree.

Each character is a thread and as the story goes on the author weaves the separate threads together until you have a beautiful tapestry full of life and colour.

The writing is stunning, each side of the story seems to be written in a separate style. What I mean by this is when we are with the nobles or the court the writing is measured and elegant, it is beautifully crafted and gives a understanding to the ritualistic and formulaic world of the Kitai nobles.

In the countryside or while with the army the style and dialogue is a little more crude and relaxed but still bound up in tradition. These different styles draw you into the story and give the book a three dimensional feel.

This is a story of war, intrigue, duty and ultimately love. I’m not sure I can articulate just how much I enjoyed this book but even though its only July I can safely say this will be my book of 2013.

River of Stars is released today. (18/07/13)

ggkGUY GAVRIEL KAY was born in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, and raised in Winnipeg. In the 1970’s he was retained by the Estate of J.R.R. Tolkien to assist in the editorial construction of Tolkien’s posthumously published The Silmarillion. He returned to Canada from Oxford to take a law degree at the University of Toronto and was called to the Bar in Ontario.

Kay became Principal Writer and Associate Producer for the CBC radio series, “The Scales of Justice”, dramatizing major criminal trials in Canadian history. He also wrote several episodes when the series later moved to television. He has written social and political commentary for the National Post and the Globe and Mail and for The Guardian in England, and has spoken on a variety of topics at universities and conferences around the world.

In 1984, Kay’s first novel, The Summer Tree, the first volume of The Fionavar Tapestry, was published to considerable acclaim in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, and then in a number of countries and languages. In 1990 Viking Canada’s edition of his novel Tigana reached the national bestseller list, and his next book A Song for Arbonne debuted at #1 nationally. Kay has been a bestseller with each novel since.

Translations now exceed twenty-five languages and Kay has toured and read on behalf of his publishers and at literary events across Canada, and in countries ranging from the United States and England to Poland, France, Russia, Croatia, Serbia, Mexico, China, the Czech Republic, and Greece, among others. He has been nominated for and has won numerous literary awards and is the recipient of the International Goliardos Prize (presented in Mexico City) for his contributions to the literature of the fantastic.

Guy Gavriel Kay lives in Toronto with his wife and sons.


About readinggivesmewings

Father of two girls with two passions, Reading and history. If I can combine the two then I am a happy person!
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One Response to River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay

  1. Rabindranauth says:

    Wow! That synopsis makes this book sound like an absolutely nebulous piece of work.

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